The shape of our paper-based service has changed dramatically over the last 2 years. Prior to covid and the technological advancements it has produced, large court bundles requiring printing, organising, and legal photocopying services were the norm, with the occasional request made to scan in archived files to create more accessible online copies. Now, 90% of the work we receive is received electronically for FTP or as hardcopy to be scanned into electronic bundles. A noticeable shift towards e-documents has been observed, clearly accelerated by the pandemic. So what does this say for the future of 'physical' legal services as technology continues to advance and concepts such as the Metaverse begin to take shape?
FTP - File Transfer Protocol - a coded set of rules (that differ between software) for the transferring of digital files.
Here at Altlaw, we are lucky that of our two businesses, one is firmly rooted in the future and the cutting edge, while the other is more rooted in the past - which is not necessarily a bad place to be! I have written several posts/LinkedIn articles on the impact the Metaverse may have on the practice of law concerning the eDiscovery side of the business - you can read one here - The Metaverse and the Law. However, I am yet to look at how the Metaverse might affect businesses that sell a more physical product/service.
Of the physical services offered by Altlaw - document printing, trial bundling and archive scanning to name a few, it is clear to see that some will be very well suited to, if not necessary for legal professionals in the lead-up to the age of the Metaverse, while others, though not integral in a business' move towards Metaverse preparedness, provide a safe alternative option for those warier of the risks of storing data in the Metaverse.
I think it goes without saying that as society moves towards a future in the Metaverse, having online accessible versions of your documents will be a necessity, not a luxury. As such, the use of scanning software to create digital copies of old case files and archived data is expected to increase significantly in the near future, and companies/businesses should look into making preparations for this eventuality.
By scanning and collating digital copies of legacy data now you are not only ensuring a smooth transition to a more technological future, but you will also beat the rush to do so once the rest of the industry realises that electronically storing information is the most efficient way to operate within a Metaversal environment.
It should be noted, however, that while having accessible online versions of your documents is very important, I would also recommend retaining your hardcopies for a regulated amount of time. Preferably, a timeframe that corresponds with the type of data you hold and your obligations under GDPR. This should ensure that should there be a technology crisis you are still able to access your data.
Document Printing & Trial Bundling:
In contrast with Archive Scanning, Document Printing and Trial Bundling are two services that are likely to see a decline once the Metaverse becomes a reality, a fate shared by many other 'physical' service offerings, especially in the legal sphere. There are, however, a couple of benefits these services do provide to a Metaversal industry.
Complex Document Structures - When thinking of document printing you might think that little technology is required to ensure a smooth printing process, but in this case, you would be wrong. Typically in the legal field, the documents requiring printing are spread out among complex file and folder systems and each document MUST be printed in exactly the correct order to recreate this folder system accurately in hardcopy. This means that quite sophisticated software is required to allow us to properly identify and produce documents as required. Software like this will become especially useful once we begin to store data, host meetings, and even go to trial in the Metaverse. Data in the Metaverse... I can only imagine that you can take our current file complexity and multiply it by 10!
Hardcopy is Un-hackable - One of the common worries amongst people speculating on the Metaverse is the security of data stored in a massive interoperable data frame like the kind that would be needed to facilitate the Metaverse. It certainly does leave quite a lot to chance, though I'm sure all proper preparations will be made to ensure data security. Having a hardcopy version of your trial bundle or key documents is a sure way to A - have a backup in case of a technical issue as mentioned above, and B - ensure the data can only be accessed by those it is intended for.
Adapting service offerings to fit the mood of the consumer is a practice as old as business itself and preparing to take business to the Metaverse is no different. Yes, some aspects of your business may not thrive, but others will rise to prominence. Yes, you may have to change the way you operate or advertise, but you may find new and improved ways of working you had never thought of before. In short, this is a time of great change for all businesses, and whether you offer an online or a physical service, the only way to survive is to embrace said change. Here at Altlaw, we love change, and the constant challenge to do better, so even though as a physical service provider the days to come are a little daunting, we are excited nonetheless!